Adding WiFi to a cable set-top box is probably something every geek has thought would be a great idea, but we suspect you and AT&T aren't on the same page. You were probably thinking it'd be cool to stream viral internet videos to the big screen without switching inputs, or maybe you thought it'd be cool to ditch the cable modem and WiFi access point and feed your laptop internet via the same box you deliver your HD with. Nope, AT&T and Cisco obviously don't think those are worthy ideas, and instead, this new box simply works without a coax cable. We suppose there's a market for this as only like 90 percent of TVs have coax running to them already -- and no new house is built these days without 'em -- but we have tried to stream HD via WiFi and it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that it doesn't "just work." Of course the fact that U-Verse's H.264 streams are pitifully over-compressed
should help, but even when you add that to the great performance of 802.11n, we suspect you'd still be better served by a good ol' copper wire.
AT&T Dares Cable Cos. to Cut Cable with Wi-Fi STB
The Cisco ISB7005 for AT&T U-Verse cleared the FCC today. This is the first set-top box that IMS Research has observed beyond those from the Turkish company AirTies that is designed to receive pay-TV over a Wi-Fi interface.
Stephen Froehlich, a senior analyst with IMS Research's Consumer Electronics group states, "AT&T appears to be using the extreme compression of their video as a competitive advantage. U-Verse's comparatively low HD video bitrates are allowing them to use a relatively inexpensive 2x2 dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi radio based on the BRCM4717 for this application. Our preliminary analysis is that AT&T can use such a simple design because its HD video is encoded at approximately 5 Mbps compared to 5-8 Mbps for HDTV over satellite and 16 Mbps for HDTV over cable. This means that the satellite and especially the cable providers will need far more elaborate wireless solutions to enable them to stream video over a wireless network."
The Cisco ISB7005 also includes the Ethernet and HomePNA wired networking interfaces found on other U-Verse STBs and DVRs.
Michael Weissman, is the VP of Corporate Marketing for Sigma Designs' (SIGM), the manufacturer of the HomePNA chips used by U-Verse. Weissman notes, "There will always be a need for wired backhaul in the home. Because consumers will want to keep their Wi-Fi capacity open for Mobile Devices. We are confident that our Clear Path powerline networking technology will be able to deliver the performance that operators need from a wired network with the convenience of self-install."
Froehlich adds, "It is not yet clear if the ISB7005 is intended to be the primary client STB for U-Verse or whether it is meant instead to be used only to save installers from the most time consuming of wire runs. It is important to note that this is a client STB for U-Verse and we have not yet seen a multi-room DVR server with Wi-Fi. The interior photos also reveal that the Wi-Fi in the ISB7005 is on a daughter card that can easily be installed or removed by an AT&T technician."